Category Archives: Blog Post

Aivascope PRO 1.5x Anamorphic Lens test, quick update

(vimeo)

OK, so it’s been awhile. It’s been a weird year of ups and downs and I just don’t even know where to begin.

So, let’s begin with the Aivascope Pro 1.5x single focus anamorphic adapter. After asking nicely, Valdas of Aivascope graciously lent me one of the test copies of his new lens. I was excited to give it a try and looking forward to shooting as much as I could with it. Well, first came the rainiest early summer I can ever remember. Then, I got sick. Really sick. I was in doctor’s offices and hospitals in and out most of the summer. Instead of having the lens for a month, I had it for 3 and only shot with it 2 days or so. Both were really tough in the heat and I really shouldn’t have been out shooting in my condition, but I had to do something with it. It was driving me crazy.

I did two days in Chinatown with a similar rig. On the first day I tried the Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 lens. I had everything rigged on the Ronin-S the best I could and it did a decent job. I had fun filming but I had several issues keeping the rig stable because of the weird design of the Aivascope Pro and lack of a place to support the lens. But the BIGGEST issue was that the Aivascope Pro does NOT like fast apertures at infinity. You get really bad blooming and CA in the highlights.

You can see how bad the highlights are. This is at f/1.4
Same lens, a bit later, at f/2

It looked fine at closer focus, though. I was unhappy with the stability of my rig as well, so I waited until I felt decent and the weather was good to try again. This time I decided to use the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 as the taking lens. I also got the dual handles from SmallRig for the Ronin-S. This combo fixed 100% of my issues from the first shoot. Everything was sharp, clean, and stable. The only downside is that at f/2.8 with this modern lens is that everything looks a bit sterile. I threw in a few shots from the first day so I could have a bit more bokeh in the edit.It flared about the same on pretty much every lens I tried with it, but some lights randomly make it flare, some don’t.

Unfortunately things didn’t go well after the second day shoot and I never got around to editing this until now. I kinda wish I shot more, but hey. I’m happy with what I have. It’s better than nothing.

My final thoughts on the Aivascope Pro are this: It’s clean, it’s heavy, and it does what it says it does. It is NOT an Iscorama replacement. It is a completely different lens altogether. My main issues with the lens are the weight and the lack of a good place for support on the lens itself. It’s almost as heavy as the Bolex 16/32 with the FVD-16A on it. The only place you can support the lens is on the rear thread clamp. I tried to work around this on my rig by putting my follow focus under the lens on the focus gear. That helped a lot on the Ronin.

Speaking of the Ronin-S, it did a fantastic job. I am very happy with it’s performance and heavy rigs. Just balance, calibrate, and it’s always ready to go.

If I could afford to keep it I would definitely do so. It’s an excellent tool with it’s own look and strengths. But I’ve had a Bolex 16/32 1.5x for over a year and I barely use it, so it just didn’t seem like a smart buy for now.

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
4K UHD 60fps 4K, CINE-D
Converted to 24fps
Sigma ART 30mm f/2.8 MFT lens
Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount
Aivascope PRO 1.5x Anamorphic
DJI Ronin-S gimbal
IKAN Live Air Wireless Follow Focus

Filmed in Yokohama Chinatown, Japan.
Music is: Pick Up the Phone by Equalibrum

Anamorphic Promo Vid for strangerskateboards.us – TOO YOUNG TO DIE

Was asked to film with Sean of strangerskateboards.us while he was in Tokyo for his new drop. We did everything on the fly pretty quickly, but it was a lot of fun to do. We filmed in Shibuya for a few hours and I came back another day to do some pick-up shots. I used the same setup as this video with a few changes. It was super easy to just go out and shoot with such a compact setup, but I want to improve it more.

It’s always fun to have actual content to make. Sometimes just having the gear isn’t enough. Hope to get my rigs into a studio situation soon for some more commercial and promo work!

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
4K UHD 60fps 4K, CINE-D
Converted to 24fps
Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount
Pentax 85mm f/1.8 M42 mount
Blue Kowa 16-H 2X Anamorphic Lens
Rapido FVD-16A

Filmed in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Music is: While I’m Away by Equalibrum

GH5 Anamorphic on the iPad Pro in LumaFusion

Vimeo

I had been wanting an iPad Pro since the first generation, but I couldn’t really justify it. I have been using a Surface 3 for my daily basic computing and simple creative work. It played back stuff from my GH5 no problem. But when I saw the new basic iPad was editing GH5 video, I was very interested.

The new iPad Pros were announced and I waited until I sold a few things to order one. So far, I am VERY impressed. Other capabilities aside, the fact that it handles my GH5 footage so flawlessly and QUICKLY made it an instant winner for me. (It also handles 6K and 400Mbit Anamorphic like it’s no big deal. More tests with those later.) It takes a bit of time getting use to the limitations of LumaFusion if you are use to endless option editors from Adobe and Blackmagic. The first issue I saw is that I couldn’t desqueeze in preview. I think I’ll try to do a comparison of video quality from the raw video and a set pre-compressed in the DeSqueeze app (another app I highly recommend).

Once you copy your videos to the iPad or import them from wherever, you can view and trim them instantly. Scrubbing is instant and in full quality. You can do this in the window or full screen on the iPad. Then you can color tag the clips and start dragging them on your timeline. Once on the timeline, you can then edit the video in any way you want. My timeline was already set for 2.76:1 Ultra Panavision. Set your clip to Stretch in Fit Mode and you’re good to go. You can then copy this attribute and paste it to the other clips as you work on them. I do wish there was a way to select all the clips, though. The only issue I have found is that you can’t copy speed settings. You have to do that to each clip individually. But it handled 59.97 fps to 24 fps perfectly.

After that, you edit your clips on the timeline to your liking. Then comes one of the amazing parts… One you’re ready, select a clip again and then go to the Color &  Effects tab… you can then instantly see a preview of any LUTs you have imported. Like, you can just touch any one, see it and play the clip back in real time. if you have 50 LUTs you can see how they on your clip instantly. After you have your LUT selected you can then tweak the clip’s color to your liking.

I went out to Ginza last weekend just to film a few clips to test this with. It’s the first video I shot with my new Blue Kowa 16-H, which will be my main lens from now on most likely. It worked very well with the Voightlander 40mm 1.4 (Leica M mount) that I have been using a lot lately. It’s so crazy to be editing video from a DSLR anamorphic rig on an iPad, but I don’t think this will be my last.

The limitations are something you have to work around. To get the film effect on the intro and end, I rendered out the video clips and then put them through an 8mm camera app. You only get 3 layers to work with, so you have to do as much as you can with one layer. The only thing I didn’t do on the iPad were my logo and the end card. I imported those to Affinity Photo and edited them to fit the video and end credits. I still want to see how far I can push what can be done on the iPad. I think next I need to find some good animation apps and really try to take it to another level.

I think the more I get use to workflow workarounds the more I can use the iPad to speed up projects and work on the go. That’s the plan. Most of that video was edited on the train from Yokohama to Tokyo. I am also finally getting my illustrations cleaned up and finished on the iPad. I need to move forward with those co I can start more. Music too? Yeah, hopefully. I’m excited. The iPad won’t be my only portable machine, though. I have something else, kinda. But that’s for another day.

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
4K UHD 60fps 4K, CINE-D
Converted to 24fps
Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount
Blue Kowa 16-H 2X Anamorphic Lens
Rapido FVD-16A

Filmed in Ginza, Tokyo.
Music is: Luster (Interlude) by Equalibrum

JSD LABS: Aivascope V2 Test, New Lenses, Custom Variable Diopter

(vimeo)

Finally getting around to filming some new videos.  Hit a few snags with life but more content should be rolling in relatively quickly from here on out.

I emailed Valdas of Aivascope to see if he’d let me try out his new and improved Aivascope. The video I did of the first one did well (a lot of people seemed to use it or stills from it to sell them…) and I’m still a fan. I only sold mine because I needed something I could use for anything and more often at night.

Well, that’s where this new version comes in. It was purported be be much sharper and better at fast apertures than the old one. And as you can see in the video above, that is VERY true. It gave me a chance to try one of my new favorite lenses, the Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount lens.

This lens seems to work with just about any setup I throw at it. I have more videos coming with this lens and another baby I picked up, the Canon 50mm f/18 L39.

The whole video was shot at f/1.4 and around ISO 800 pretty much. There might be a few shots at ISO 400 or f/2.0. The area of Tokyo we were in was very bright and had lots of lights. The Aivascope handled everything, especially the closeups, very well. The only issues I had were some flare ghosting by the custom variable diopter I thew together and a few shots where I forgot to turn off digital stabilization. It’s not bad overall and I’m still happy with the video. It really shows what the Aivascope can do. It doesn’t flare like the old one, but you still get some nice ones in the right light. The only thing I’m not sure sure about is the “D” bokeh, but it could grow on me.

As for the variable diopter used in this video, I made it from the focusing diopter glass on a Bell & Howel 2X anamorphic. The anamorphic part is cracked, so I picked up the lens super cheap. I designed my first ever 3D parts, and with some sanding they fit in a Pixco helicoid perfectly. Bam, a super sharp variable diopter for small anamorphics. It works on anything and REALLY surprised me with it’s quality, especially compared to the Focuser 8. Any aperture, any focal length. It’s only kryptonite is bright lights, they ghost in the elements and I can’t find out if I can fix that. It works, sometimes. Others… it looks really cheap. But for the 85% of shots where it’s super good, it’s still worth it.

I have to return the Aivascope in a few weeks, but I’ll try to get a few more videos done with it. I was planning to do an iPhone video with it, but iOS 12 bricked my phone. I’ll get a replacement soon and give it a shot.

Lastly, thanks again to Jennifer Liza for helping me out with another video! You can find her Instagram here.

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
4K UHD 60fps 4K, CINE-D
Converted to 24fps
Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount
Aivascope V2 1.75x Anamorphic
Custom Bell & Howell Variable Diopter
Marumi 72mm +3 Diopter

Filmed in Tabata, Tokyo.
Music by me, made in the iOS Launchpad app.

Illustration Time – Cyberbunny

FINALLY. I have been working on this off and on for a month now. One of my goals this year was to get back into doing illustration regularly, but it has been a challenge. I do a lot as it is, so I have had to learn how to manage my time better. Drawing is one of the few things I can do at work during downtime and on the trains (I have been trying hard to get into this habit). I have done a few small things since January but I wanted to finish something serious to get it started.

LR-00012, Field Recon Rabbit.

This is based of a sketch I did back in college of a rabbit with some metal parts and a folding sound dish for an ear. (I really wish I could find this. It’s most likely somewhere in storage in America.) The initial sketch took a bit longer than I would have liked, as I had a hard time getting a pose I liked. The only things that I somewhat traced over were the USB port and the chain link. Part of the background (the tower) is from a photo I took. The clouds were a mess of trying to copy a photo, but with contrast they looked alright.

I love screen tones.  I have wanted to do stuff in comic tone forever. I have been collecting them as I see them and the ones I ended up using I don’t remember where I got them from. I’ll do other stuff without it but for awhile I want to play with various tones because I thing it will compliment my ideas.

I may do a 3D version of this bunny. 3D stuff is coming later. Besides more videos and illustration, something else has to come next… more on that soon.

Until then, you can find my bunny here:

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Instagram

JSD Labs: Rapido Technology FVD-16A, all the jackets, Moller 32/2x, and Helios 44-2 at the Youtube Hanami in Yoyogi

(vimeo)

I was lucky enough to get in on the first batch of the Rapido Tehcnology FVD-16A variable diopter. When this came out I was already in the market for a single focus solution, and Rapido just happened to have something that was exactly what I wanted and a few extras I didn’t know I wanted. I ended up getting the full set to make my anamorphic combo look like a monobloc lens. It’s not flawless but it’s very, very good.

Before and after.

I have the parts to use my Isco Ultra Star with this setup as well. I will shoot a bit with that after I finish practicing and tweaking with the Moller setup. Right now the only thing I’m missing is something in between the Moller and the Ultra Star, and then I’d have the anamorphic trifecta.

My Helios 44-2 isn’t in the best of shape. I like the atmosphere it gives, but it was a bit of a pain to set up in the Rapido Rear Metal Jacket. My Moller 32/2x isn’t so perfect either. But I absolutely love the look the combo gives. The best part with this new setup is that my shots look exactly the same with FVD-16a as without. I will push it a bit when I do some tests with my Ultra Star and my Leica Nocticron soon. But I hear that it also performs well with fast apertures.

I did have some slight issues with vignetting at first. But that was mostly caused by the original Rapido Moller clamp than the FVD. I ordered a new one from Jim and it works a charm. Before that I hacked together another clamp that let me set the Moller in the Helios a bit more and it worked well.

I had been filming on and off with the rig tweaking things and testing settings. Some plans fell through last Saturday and I was in the area anyway, so I decided to check out the Youtube Japan Hanami in Yoyogi park. I have been to a few of the early ones, and it’s not really my thing. (not really a Youtuber or drinker) I had some friends there and it was a good opportunity to film people without anybody freaking out. (Didn’t really work, my setup attracted all kinds of attention.) I didn’t stay long, but I got enough video to get a good run-and-gun feel for the bare rig. Everything was shot handheld with a monopod. I also had a Tiffen VND and a Marumi +1 diopter for a few shots. The only thing I wish I had was a matte box… I went ahead and bought a cheap basic one for this rig. I’ll get another really good one later.

I am so happy with the Rapido FVD… it’s exactly what I wanted. It destroys the SLR Magic Rangefinder in almost every way. It’s so much cleaner, sharper, and works better with fast lenses. The only thing I wish it was better at is that the focusing was smoother. Also, my current setup goes a tiny bit beyond infinity. Not sure if it’s my weird lens combo or the FVD itself.

I have a lot more practice to do with this setup, so I’ll most likely be uploading things shot with it and the Isco very soon. I also have some other projects coming down the line as well. Look forward to it!

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
Anamorphic Mode 60fps 4K, VLOG
Converted to 24fps
Helios 44-2 58mm lens with Rapido Rear Metal Jacket
Möller 32/2x Anamorphot with Rapido Full Metal Jacket
Rapido Technologies FVD-16A
Tiffen VND
Marumi +1 diopter

JSD Labs: DJI Mavic Air, iPhone 7 Plus, and Cherry Blossoms in Japan

A few weeks ago I finally got my own drone. The Mavic Air came out at the right time and had the right specs for my needs, so I picked one up. I have flown drones plenty of times in Japan, either rentals or client’s drones, but this is the first one I have owned.  It’s a different experience flying something that you personally have something invested in. One wrong move and it could be gone. So I haven’t done anything crazy with it.

Drones are banned in Tokyo, which is a shame. I have been working in Tokyo a lot recently and I haven’t been able to take it with me. Luckily, I live in Yokohama. With the exception of military bases, airports, events, and densely populated areas, it’s OK to fly here. I have been practicing in local parks, which were fine for gaining my bearings with it, but I can’t do too much crazy or intense flying. In sport mode the drone can cross a baseball field in seconds. With so many tall buildings and hills it’s easy for the Mavic to get out of sight really quickly. I plan to take it out to the beach when it warms up a bit more, but then I have the other fun issue of it being over water. I didn’t get it as a toy, it’s for filming only. Losing it would hurt my production values and wallet.

Overall it is a VERY solid drone. It packs up so tiny. My only issue is that it’s size doesn’t inspire confidence sometimes and can make it hard to see at a distance. I haven’t had any issues with connection or flying badly. But then again, I haven’t tried to push it at all. I only have two batteries right now, as my budget for film making is currently done. I had to sell a bunch of stuff to get this and something else, which I will be writing about very soon. I do want to fly it more often and try it out on some big projects, so I will invest in it a bit more when I can.

As for the video, I didn’t do much as far as settings other than changing some of the settings to be more film-like. Everything else was auto. I will try some manual camera settings on my next shoot. I also got a CPL to try. I hope to get some NDs for it in the future too. I brought my Zhiyun Smooth II iPhone gimbal to see what I could get with a super portable setup. I tried to go full manual in the Mavis app, so some of the shots didn’t match very well. If I went full manual on the Mavic too I think I could get them to match better. I also wanted to try a video with zero slow-motion. As much as I like the look it can be a crutch sometimes. I also had a hard time getting the colors the way I wanted, so I kinda give up and am posting it as the best I could. I really, really need to practice that more. Overall it’s just a test video of sorts. I have been flying since I got it, but just simple stuff that I post on Instagram.

The location for the shoot was fantastic. I had never been to this park before. I came upon it by chance when I went out to practice flying early one morning. The park I wanted to use had a baseball game (at 7:30 AM!) and I just wandered around looking for places to fly for like an hour. The only issue with the park is that it’s kinda far from everything. But it was so perfect for practice… very few people, good scenery, open spaces, perfect cherry blossoms.

I’ll have some more Mavic videos soon, but they’ll most likely be part of other projects. If I can, I’ll do a good beach video at the same place I did the iPhone 7 Plus anamorphic video.

Hopefully content will start flowing more regularly from now on too.

JSD LABS: Cosmicar 75mm f/1.4 C-Mount lens with Isco Ultra Star Anamorphic Test

I have been gushing about the Cosmicar since I got it. I saw one image that caught my eye a year ago and it never left me, so I found it again, and discovered it was caught on the Cosmicar 75mm c-mount. I searched for other pictures and videos about the lens, and at the time there wasn’t much. In fact, I think there were only 2-3 videos shot using the lens on Youtube at the time and they weren’t great. I saw the potential, though. I showed a few samples to a photography friend of mine and asked if there were any lenses he knew of that could achieve the look. Things like the Zeiss Pancolar, the Helios, and Jupiter came up, but I already knew about those. I’m not sure, but something seemed off and magical about the Cosmicar, so I decided to get one.

Lucky me, I found a seller on ebay with a few early copies with perfect glass but had body blemishes/fading. $60 shipped to Japan. Best purchase of the year. (outside of my GH5)

I started taking photos with it and was ecstatic that it was everything I hoped it would be. Very little to no vignetting on the GH5 sensor. Shockingly sharp at f/1.4. FANTASTIC BOKEH. Makes the highlights bloom just the right neon color. Perfect. There’s some photos on my Instagram accounts shot with it and I used it a bit in my 180fps slow motion video too. It’s a permanent part of my lens collection.

But what about Anamorphic? It’s too long to use on my 1.33x lenses. The actual body is too long to use on the Möller 32/2x. You can use it in ETC mode, but you lose some of the good parts of the edges when you do. The Isco Ultra Star fit the picture nicely. Almost no vignetting, super clean, easier to use than the Möller. Small enough to go portable. Not crazy on flare but has that perfect oval bokeh.

I shot a test of myself just to see how it would look, and we have a winner.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdkZun6Hr8m/

The only issue with the Cosmicar is it doesn’t have round aperture blades. As soon as I have the resources, I’m going to look into the possibility of doing a swap. It’s fine, as most of the good DOF shots are benefited by the full aperture.

I already had a shoot day booked with my friend Jennifer Liza, a model in the Tokyo area. She was down to try some weird lenses and I took the Cosmicar/Ultra Star combo into the city. We went to Shinjuku and Akihabara to find some good places and lights.

The only problem I had was doing any kind of scenery. A few shots in the video, especially in the beginning, have more vignetting than most and for some reason the video files fall completely apart when trying to color correct. No tripods were allowed in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Tower, so I had to hand hold with a mini rig in a surprisingly crowded area.

Everything else came out great. With a little bit of work, I think this is a viable rig for a big project. I almost want to shave the front off my Ultra Star just to try to get rid of that little vignette completely, but it may just be the fact that the rear of the c-mount lens just barely works vignette free as is. Either way, this is a real-deal setup that I will keep even as I start focusing my collection down. These types of videos are helping figure out what I want to work with in the future. I have definitely found something special. Here’s to the future!

Once again, thanks to Jennifer Liza for helping me out with this vid!
https://www.instagram.com/jenem_/

JSD LABS: Panasonic GH5 VFR 180fps ver. 2.2 Test – Maihama Skate Park

When the newest GH5 Firmware update came out, it claimed to improve the stability of the VFR. To me, in hope, that was fixing some of the issues that I had earlier with the high speed modes beyond 120fps. We did do a few 120fps shots in Tokyo Dreams and I really didn’t see what everybody was complaining about. I had a few editors not even know it was shot in HD next to the 4K footage. So, with firmware version 2.2 in hand, I set out to Maihama Skate Park in Tokyo to practice skate filming and see if I could break the 180fps mode on the GH5.

I think using the VFR mode well is to know it’s limitations and strengths. Some of the best and cleanest shots were done with a good DoF. I used the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron when I could, and even tried a few shots on my beloved 75mm Cosmicar f/1.4 c-mount lens. I always had the shutter at 180 and used a variable ND until it got too dark. I saw next to no issues with the footage frame wise, but I did not try to push any of the colors in editing. All in all I think I will be doing more slow motion at 180fps and not worry about any problems that seem to keep people from using it. The next step for me is to try and rack focus while filming fast motion. It’s kinda scary, as you could easily end up with nothing in focus, instead of most things in focus.

I am still slowly learning how to film skating properly. I don’t skate, so what I can do filming-wise is limited. I’d love to learn how to be a skate filmer and get to chase on a board, but I can’t risk getting injured or breaking gear right now. Maybe soon?

I was very lucky to get some great skaters for this video. Special thanks to everybody who helped out! And I’m sorry if I filmed you and it’s not in the video. I most likely screwed up the shot somehow.

Skaters in order of appearance:
https://www.instagram.com/charlie_fxtrader/
https://www.instagram.com/uhnair/
https://www.instagram.com/manasasaki_/
https://www.instagram.com/harutosk8/
https://www.instagram.com/shinn_nosuke_/
https://www.instagram.com/kaedesk8/
https://www.instagram.com/shimon_mdaskater/
https://www.instagram.com/luismoravids/
Toa Hoshino
https://www.instagram.com/yutohorigome/
https://www.instagram.com/austinnodie/
https://www.instagram.com/ericskateloveg/
https://www.instagram.com/maxkiks/

Video specs:
Panasonic GH5, firmware ver. 2.2
180fps 1080p VFR
42.5mm f/1.2 Leica Nocticron
12-35mm f/2.8 Panasonic
75mm f/1.4 Cosmicar c-mount
Various variable ND filters

JERHELL – KINGDOM HEARTS Music Video, Directed by JSD

My first real music video in awhile, and my first music video as JSD. Pretty excited to get it out there and the reception has been great!

Jerell wanted something quick and gritty, and he was thrilled with the result. After he told me what he wanted, I knew the perfect setting: Minato Mirai in Yokohama. We filmed half the video in Shinjuku and half at Minato Mirai. I had planned to try and film more in the Cosmo World amusement park, but they closed on days we needed to film and closed early the day we were there. It’s all good, as we got plenty of good footage regardless.

I filmed the video with a special setup using special settings on the GH5. I wanted ALL-I 60p 10-bit video, and my camera can only do that in 1080. Didn’t bother me, as I was going to use an anamorphic lens anyway. I used my Aivascope 1.75x anamorphic lens with the Focuser 8 diopter. Normally it’d be really difficult to use this setup at night, but I discovered that if I use my Voightlander 17.5mm f/0.95 lens in ETC Mode on the GH5, I can get much better images at even f/1.2 with the Aivascope. That lens loves small sensors.

I’m glad I got to help him out with his first real music video. I’ll be working with him and his crew more in the future. Next time we’ll take the quality up a notch. Looking forward to it!